How do we improve police accountability in urban communities?
In the wake of several high-profile police killings and the growth of the Black Lives Matter movement, many Americans are demanding greater accountability in policing. One popular form of police accountability is the establishment of citizen-led organizations.
Independent from police departments, citizen-led organizations can investigate and address civilian complaints about officer misconduct. In practice, however, creating a process that can effectively adjudicate civilian complaints is complicated.
First, civilians need to trust that their complaint will actually lead to a positive outcome, or they will not be likely to engage with the complaints process. Then, even if they do begin the process, most complaints take a year or more to resolve and many complainants drop out of the process before it is resolved. In addition, disciplinary action following review remains rare.
Possibility Lab has partnered with a large city’s independent complaint review board to co-design and rigorously test solutions that have the potential to further three key priorities: reducing drop-off rates when people file complaints about police misconduct, increasing client satisfaction with the process, and increasing community awareness of and engagement with the complaint process.
In the coming year, our team will analyze data to understand how many people engage with each step of the complaint process, where people disengage with the process, how long it takes complaints to move forward, and the distribution of case outcomes. We’ll then work closely with the city agency to identify potential drivers of drop off rates, to design realistic and scalable adjustments to the process, and to test the effectiveness of these potential solutions.
In order to understand perceptions of police accountability and the justice system, our team will also conduct a survey to gauge the level of awareness of, perceptions of, and trust in the complaint process and to analyze how these attitudes vary across geography and demographics. In addition, we hope to embed experiments within the survey to test whether different ways of framing the CCRB and its work elicit more or less trust in its ability to hold police accountable. These findings will help improve targeted outreach strategies to build trust among city residents.
This project was made possible with funding from the Citrin Center for Public Opinion at the University of California, Berkeley.